The State of Virtual and Augmented Reality in the Real World
Virtual and Augmented reality have one thing in common. They both alter the way you perceive the world. Augmented Reality (or AR), allows one to enhance the real world by placing digital images into real places. Using AR, you could see a digital dragon resting on your very real desk (through your phone, of course). Virtual reality (or VR), on the other hand, simulates a whole world that you can explore. Using VR, you have the ability to walk around, observe, and in some cases, interact with your completely computer generated surroundings.
The technology necessary to create have virtual reality in your living room is both groundbreaking and relatively costly. On top of the $600+ phone or VR specific PC – which can cost you anywhere from $800 to upwards of $5000 – you need to invest in the $100 – $800 (at of the time of this article’s release) goggles that make VR possible. These goggles are the key to VR. They completely cover your eyes, and most of your face, to block out any other visual stimulation so that all you see is the world coming through the two focusing lenses (one for each eye).
For Augmented reality, the hardware available today is much simpler. It is just your phone. Popular applications such as Snapchat, Pokemon Go, and Google’s Tango AR have used the consumer’s phone to generate virtual images in the real world. Though your phone uses a complex combination of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), Computer Processing Units (CPUs), accelerometers, your camera, and gyroscopes to augment your surroundings through your phone screen, it is still utilizing much of the technology already outfitted in many of the latest mobile devices on the market. Although Tango – the most sophisticated AR software available to users to date – can only run on certain phones, it is still less costly than investing in a VR headset on top of your latest phone.
Although most Virtual Reality headsets on the market are similar in design, there are two major variations. The mobile friendly (and less costly) VR headset revolves around having a phone being fitted into your goggles and the VR display being played on there. Examples of these goggles are the HTC Vive and the Google Daydream View. Headsets like the Oculus Rift and the PlayStation VR, on the other hand, support an HDMI port so that you can connect with your quality performance gaming rig or gaming console to play a plethora of high quality, interactive video games.
VR and AR have become a new, growing market in the past two decades. Though the technology isn’t necessarily new, it is safe to say that both reality altering technologies are still in their exploratory phase. Corporations are starting to realize the potential for VR and AR in their own businesses. We are seeing a slow shift from the realm of gaming too, for example, one of design. Alternet.io, our Internet of Things (IoT) business unit, worked with Real-Estate Agencies to show investors a 3D virtual model of their future buildings. Furthermore, a start-up based in California, known as Daqri, created their own Augmented Reality Hololens, known as the “smart helmet”. This product catered specifically to industrial usage, which includes allowing builders to view a 3-dimensional blueprint of their architectural project. The fact that this technology is reaching out to another industry shows that there are applications for VR and AR that exceed gaming. Hopefully, we can see more industries utilize the means to alter our world or create a new one.
Almost all of the applications we have seen for AR today are in real-estate, industrial training (high-risk) or gaming. Virtual reality, given the processing power required, is still very much limited to gaming.
Virtual and augmented reality have both proved their worth as a consumer and corporate tool that can allow you to interact with your surroundings in a new and exciting way. The amount of funding generated by these two technologies has increased to $2.3 billion which more than doubled the investment in 2016, which capped at $1.1 billion (according to Digi-Capital’s Virtual/Augmented reality report). Companies such as Magic Leap and Oculus Rift are pioneers in Augmented and Virtual reality, and they are making advances in quality and performance every single day.
Even with the successes of the technology in mind, we have to remember that this is a relatively new industry fueled by two products that have yet to reach most people around the world. VR and AR have an amazing potential to change the way we interact with the world around us, but we still need to expand its reaches to people of many different social hierarchies and locations around the globe. It is not a technology that was intended to be limited to gamers with high-performance machines, and as time passes it will outgrow that niche. We just need to be patient and see how fast it spreads to the rest of the world.